The diachronic study of language and its evolution.

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Why were written sentences longer in the past?

These ELU answers affirm, but do not explain, the decrease in written sentence length. So why? To allow for comparison with modern dialects, I restrict this question to: writing in European ...
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65 views

Why might consonants have been thought of, as sounds only produced together with vowels?

consonant (n.) [←] [...] from Latin [...] from com- "with" (see com-) + sonare "to sound" (see sonata). Consonants were thought of as sounds that are only produced together with vowels. I wish ...
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25 views

How did 'of' 's figurative meanings evolve from 'away, away from'?

of (prep.) [⇐] Old English of, unstressed form of æf (prep., adv.) "away, away from" [...], from PIE *apo- "off, away" (see apo-). Primary sense in Old English still was "away," but shifted in ...
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97 views

Where does my weird way of saying 'no' comes from?

At least in the region of Brazil where I come from (triângulo mineiro, Brazilian Texas I'd say ;) ) people have a very weird way of saying 'no' to others. I discovered that it was weird after moving ...
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43 views

Stability of palatalized consonants

Some palatalized consonants seem to have a greater tendency to "absorb" their palatalization (in various ways) than others. For example, in standard Japanese, the former palatalized alveolars tj, dj, ...
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85 views

Why do we use an upward inflection when asking questions?

I have tried Googling where the upward inflection comes from but all I get are "Valley Girl" results. My curiosity in this started with my new German Language course I'm taking and noticed that the ...
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28 views

Why does väcka/wecken seem to be built as a causative although vakna/wachen is a weak verb?

The causative verbs in germanic languages are built upon the preterite of a strong verb. However there's one verb that seems to fall out of that scheme: Swedish: vakna - väcka; German: (auf)wachen - ...
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57 views

What are the possible impetuses for loss of Middle English shwa?

I'm wondering what some possible catalysts/ reasons for loss of final -e /ǝ/ in Middle English might have been (For instance, OE /tɑlu/ > ME /taːlǝ/ > MnE tale /teɪl/). I'm wondering because to my ...
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103 views

Does anyone know what language this is?

Maybe even what the English translation is? I believe that there are hedera's present, directing it towards Latin maybe? Sorry for the bad quality
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91 views

Why there are no grammatical cases in the French language?

As far as I know, the French language is considered as a Romance language, which is derived, in its turn, from the Latin language. The last one has a rich grammatical cases system. I am interested to ...
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106 views

Are there any words that have merged in pronunciation and spelling and then separated again?

Are there any words that started off different, merged in pronunciation and spelling at some point and then separated again? E.g. Two hypothetical words in Old English OX and OY are neither ...
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73 views

Is Chechen language close to Chinese?

If the both originate from Proto-Sino-Caucasian, then Chechen language should be close to Chinese. Is there any indication for this?
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93 views

Why does word-initial upsilon always have a rough breathing?

How did a rough breathing develop before all words starting with an upsilon in Ancient Greek? This is a commonly noted fact about the distribution of these sounds (or rather spellings), but I’m having ...
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66 views

Where do the spelling rules for French imperatives come from?

French verbs are, for historical reasons, typically grouped into three classes. The loss of final consonants in French has resulted in a serious divergence, wherein the verb conjugation system of the ...
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2answers
74 views

Why are placenames considered to be a valid way of identifying a substratum?

I've been reading about different methods used in linguistics, and I've been puzzled by the usage of placenames in identifying substratums in modern languages. Just because some language and its ...
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379 views
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84 views

Etymology of Greek Enualios

Enualios or Enyalius (Ἐνυάλιος) is, in Homer and other Greek authors, either an epithet of the war god Ares or else the name of a separate god, the son of Ares and brother or partner of Enyo (whose ...
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1k views

What word did the English use before 'because'?

Looking at the origin of the word 'because' I find it evolved from the phrase 'by cause', which was influenced by the French par cause de ; 'by cause' appeared in Middle English. What word was in use ...
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65 views

What are the different ways prosodic features of a language are represented throughout the history of linguistics?

I can name a few: 1. Tones as numbers 2. Intonation contour as a line above the sentence 3. Tones as lines above segments 4. Stress marks before stress syllables ['white house] vs [white 'house] But ...
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193 views

Has grammatical gender ever been observed to emerge in a language that previously had none?

Does a language exist whose older forms are known to have lacked the category of grammatical gender, and which proceeded to evolve one (perhaps from a non-gender-based system of noun classes)? Are ...
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124 views

Origin of “Eridanus”: Indo-European or Sumerian?

With the discovery and decipherment of ancient Babylonian and Sumerian texts in the 19th century a theory was offered that the name of the river constellation Eridanus, which appears in the poem ...
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173 views

The French of Shakespeare — why does it seem so modern?

In Henry V, Shakesperean English is difficult to understand (even for modern native English speakers -- at least for me) without a good amount of help. However, there are a few scenes conducted ...
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46 views

History of languages from a geographical perspective

Unfortunately I am totally unaware of the research and most of the basic methodology of Linguistics, but I am really keen on knowing more about languages because I am a passionate learner of new ones, ...
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309 views

German long “o” vs. “au”. Is there a rule?

There are common words in Germanic languages that have a long "o" vowel in the stem, and which in modern German seem to be either "o" or "au" randomly. Examples: Dutch ROOD, Swedish RÖD, German ROT ...
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455 views

Why do languages with such different alphabets use the same common punctuation marks?

From my experience, many languages with absolutely different alphabets colloquially use the same common punctuation marks, such as: the question mark (?), for inquiring/interrogatives exclamation ...
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175 views

Why does gang-nam and viet-nam both contain nam meaning south when one is in Korean the other Vietnamese?

Does anyone know why there is a character that is common to both the Koreans and the Vietnamese? Are there any other examples of these kind of similarity?
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268 views

Why “Kampuchea” → “Cambodia”?

Many place names in English are anglicizations/transliterations of their native names. Of those, many place names in Asia seem to have undergone a change over the past few decades: they've gone from a ...
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4answers
748 views

Where did Latin come from?

My understanding (supported by Wikipedia) is that Latin was the spoken and written language in Ancient Rome. Therefore, I was puzzled to read the following piece of Talmud (Gitin 80a): מאי מלכות ...
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247 views

What is the most recent example of a language which has split from another and become non-mutually comprehensible?

I know linguists like to say "no languages are older or younger than other languages" because they all evolved from ancient roots. With exceptions such as Nicaraguan Sign Language. So let me explain ...
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136 views

Why do PIE verbs have suffixes -m-, -s-, -t-, while personal pronouns have m-, t-, s-?

Usually it is assumed that in PIE the verb forms for the singular first, second, and third person are respectively -m-, -s-, -t- (cfr. Latin). The personal pronouns, instead, have the second and ...
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1answer
66 views

Do certain features of a languages change faster on average ?

As for historical linguistics, it is about how features of language change. I stumpled upon here about people writing about grammaticalization, tonogenesis, transformation from one typology to the ...
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234 views

Are there documented languages that evolved from tonal to nontonal?

There is a theory about tonogenesis for the Chinese language, thus Chinese had once a more complex syllable-structure and no tones. In the course of time, the syllable structure became less complex ...
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178 views

Origin of Russian class 6 and class 10 verbs

In Russian, class 10 contains only a handful of verbs ending in either -олоть or -ороть. On the other hand, looking at the list in Wiktionary, class 6 contains only one verbs in -рать (орать) and ...
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How polysemic on average were Chinese words around the time of the creation of Chinese characters?

If you look up a Chinese character and its meaning in classical Chinese, there is a good chance you get a long list with many different semantically unrelated meanings. Take 而 for instance, that bears ...
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64 views

Where can I learn more about the 'linguistic center of gravity' theory?

"The linguistic center of gravity principle states that a language family's most likely point of origin is in the area of its greatest diversity." (Wikipedia ...
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45 views

What stages of emergence of linguistic features are proposed among the world of scholars?

In biology, there is a simple two stages distinction of the emergence of life: Abiogenesis, the emergence of a (very simple) life form from non-living matter. Evolution, the further emergence of ...
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81 views

What are considered to be driving forces behind grammaticalization?

It is my understanding that grammaticalization is a fancy way of saying that words that contain a lexical meaning can change over time into words that gradually lose their lexical function, but then ...
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131 views

Is there a trend toward more homophones over time? What can counteract that trend?

It is my understanding (correct me if I am wrong) that many homophones develop as a result of phonemic mergers. For instance, I, like many Americans, have a "cot-caught" merger where I do not make a ...
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2answers
135 views

Examples of discrete place-of-articulation changes

Most sound changes that involve consonantal place of articulation are gradual changes between two POAs that are contiguous: for example, a velar gets gradually fronted until it becomes a palatal. What ...
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95 views

Is there a compilation of the various etymologies of the words for “library” across Europe? [closed]

The various European languages (as a geographic entity, and excluding the Uralics) present an interesting distribution in their words for "library". In particular, English, Irish, Welsh, Basque, ...
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194 views

Help me find an early Old Norse dictionary (or even a grammar)

For some time I've been looking for a dictionary of Old Norse that reflects an early situation in the language; this kind of resource has been amazingly hard to find, for some reason. Most ...
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110 views

Translation of “Beowulf”

In the brief span of time I have studied this ancient poem, particularly verses 1829-30, I have read several translations. While observing each individual rendering of the text, it was evident to me ...
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50 views

What is the word “spirituality” derived from? [closed]

What is the word spirtuality or spirit derived from? Is it's origin based on the Christian idea of the Holy Ghost, or perhaps something earlier, like how the Greeks and Romans believed in spirits? ...
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156 views

Is there a PIE feminising noun suffix?

I was wondering whether anyone knows the Proto-Indo-European equivalent of the Greek suffixes -ina (-ίνα) or -issa (-ισσα), or whether PIE has any different feminising suffixes that work similarly?
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122 views

Is Classical Hebrew an Indo-European language?

Is Classical/Biblical Hebrew an Indo-European language? And/or - To what extent is Classical/Biblical Hebrew an Indo-European language?
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1answer
109 views

What were allophone rules for [r] in Old English and Middle English?

I gather that [r] (trill) was realized as [ɹ] in different dialects of Old English and Middle English, but when [r] was used, was it an allophone? In other words, did [r] vary predictably with [ɹ] ...
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449 views

What is this language? Is it an ancient language?

I have recently procured an artefact, which was excavated in Yemen. At the bottom of the artefact there is engraving as shown in the picture. Some of the letters (on two sides) look like Egyptian ...
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87 views

Consonantal innovations in Hungarian

The Hungarian language seems to have many phonetic features uncommon in other Uralic languages- for example, phonemic voicing in its stops and sibilants and the presence of a labiodental fricative ...
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137 views

Word elements relating to ancient deities [closed]

Are there word elements, including suffixes, from Old English or other languages that have been linked to their ancient deities and the people that served them, to which these elements are still in ...
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143 views

Origin of world languages

I am currently setting to investigate on a subject in the history of languages, but as a self-taught outsider I am stuck before finding out some key words to start searching the Web. I want to ...